JUBA, South Sudan, April 26, 2017 (Morning Star News) – Three weeks after an elder was killed in an attack on church property in Omdurman, Sudan, a mob with police on Monday(April 24) ransacked the living quarters of the compound guard and arrested his family, sources said.
Police accompanied by a mob demolished part of the room where the family lived after first destroying its padlock at the compound of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), sources said. Officers took 27-year-old Mona Matta, wife of guard Azhari Tambra, 28, and their children ages 6, 4 and 2 from their room at the SPEC synod offices and detained them until 10 p.m. at the Northern Division Police Station in Omdurman, they said.
Tambra was not home at the time of the attack. When Matta and her three children, including one who is disabled, were taken away in a police van, they were accused of opposing authorities, lacking ownership papers and betrayal of the country. They were released, however, with no charges filed against them, said a source who requested anonymity.
When the family arrived home after the release of Tambra’s wife and children, they found all their belongings destroyed, and officers prevented them from entering their living quarters, sources said.
“It is very inhumane,” the Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, SPEC moderator, told Morning Star News.
The guard and his family, members of an evangelical church in Omdurman, were unsure where they would take shelter after their home was ruined, sources said.
A committee that the government illegally appointed to run the SPEC in 2013 is occupying the synod offices with help from police. Committee members were reported to have been present in the mob that damaged the guard’s living quarters.
On April 3 about 20 men with knives and other weapons, including members of the government-appointed committee, arrived at the Evangelical School of Sudan on the synod property and began to beat several women after police had arrested the men at the school. Christians from nearby Bahri Evangelical Church rushed to the school to try and protect the women, and two church members were stabbed.
Church elder Younan Abdullah later died in a hospital from wounds sustained while he and others were defending the school. Supporters of a Muslim business interest in Omdurman trying to take over the school, including members of the government-imposed committee, participated in the attack after police along with a group supported by Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments arrived at the school first and arrested all men.
Abdullah is survived by his wife and two young children.
The illegally imposed committee has been selling church properties to businessmen aligned with the government, sources said. SPEC leaders are appealing to the Sudan government to stop interfering with SPEC affairs and cease support of the government-appointed committee.
After the arrest of the guard’s family, Elia Aromi Kuku, a prominent Christian writer from the Nuba Mountains area, on Monday (April 24) published an open letter on the Nuba Times website to Sudan’s first vice president, minister of Guidance and Religious Endowments and Sudan’s chief of justice urging them to respect the rights of Sudanese Christians.
“It is the role of the Sudanese government to protect the rights of its Christian citizens and their rights to religious co-existence, as well as respecting their beliefs and their places of worship,” he wrote.
Police in Omdurman, across from Khartoum on the Nile River, on March 27 had arrested 12 staff members of the Christian school and the next day prevented others from leaving the campus, they said.
They were taken to Omdurman’s Central Division Police Station and released at about 8 p.m., accused of obstructing the work of Education Vision, which is trying to take over the school. The institution was still functioning as a Christian school, but representatives of Education Vision were regularly disrupting classes, school personnel said.
On March 16 about 20 policemen aboard a truck forcefully entered the school compound, arrested three Christian teachers including the headmaster, Daud Musa, and took them to Omdurman’s Central Division Police Station, sources said. Also arrested were Christian teachers Yahya Elias and the late elder Abdullah, all of the SPEC.
They were released on bail after eight hours, charged with obstructing the work of those attempting to take over the school.
The arrests came nearly a month after authorities arrested and held overnight four educators from the same school, including Musa, before releasing them on bail. They were accused of destroying a sign belonging to Education Vision. The Christians strongly denied the accusation.
The Evangelical School of Sudan is one of several SPEC schools throughout Sudan.
The leadership of the SPEC remains in the hands of government-appointed committee members even after a court ruled in November 2016 that the appointments were illegal, sources said. That case is separate from an Aug. 31, 2015 ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeal saying the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments interfered with SPEC’s Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church by imposing committees on the church in order to enable Muslim investors to take it over.
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2016 report.
Sudan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.